September 2016 Update Supplement

(Issued early October 2016)

We are issuing a supplement to our September Census Project Update (distributed on September 28), in light of new developments on several issues covered in that monthly summary.


FY2017 appropriations update — Last week, Congress passed, and the President signed, a short-term spending bill (H.R. 5325) that will keep the federal government operating through December 9. The so-called Continuing Resolution (CR), which funds most federal agencies, including the Census Bureau, at last fiscal year’s (FY2016) levels, was necessary because lawmakers failed to finish work on all but one of the regular appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2017, which started on October 1. The lame-duck Congress will return to Washington after the November 8th elections to continue work on long-term funding for FY2017.

Congressional oversight hearing postponed — The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Subcommittee on Government Operations, postponed the census oversight hearing originally scheduled for September 29, after lawmakers wrapped up on work on the short term appropriations bill and headed back to their states and districts to campaign. The panel was scheduled to review results of the 2016 Census Test and cyber-security challenges for the 2020 Census. The subcommittee has not announced a new date for the hearing.


OMB opens review of race and ethnicity data standards — The Office of Management and Budget published a Federal Register notice (FRN) on September 30, seeking comments on its plan for “review and limited revision” to its Statistical Policy Directive on Standards for Maintaining, Collecting and Presenting Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity. Comments are due by October 31, 2016.

OMB last implemented significant revisions to the policy (previously called Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity, and OMB Directive 15 before that) in 1997. Noting that “the U.S. population has become more racially and ethnically diverse” in the two decades since, OMB highlighted in the FRN the formation in 2014 of an Interagency Working Group for Research on Race and Ethnicity, which identified four areas where additional revisions to the Standards might improve the quality of race and ethnicity data: (1) the use of separate versus combined questions to collect race and ethnicity data; (2) the classification of people of Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) origin; (3) clarification of the guidance to federal agencies on the purpose of the minimum reporting categories set forth in the Standards; and (4) the relevance of terms used to describe race and ethnicity in the Standards.

Based on the Working Group’s assessment, OMB is seeking comments on the adequacy of selected parts of the current Standards, specific suggestions for changes to those portions, and principles that should govern any proposed revisions to those areas. The areas of focus are: (1) question format and nonresponse, especially because a growing segment of Hispanic respondents do not select any of the current race categories; (2) need for a separate, aggregate reporting category for persons of MENA origin (currently, the definition for the White race category includes this population; (3) clarifying the intent of the minimum reporting categories; and (4) terminology used to describe race and ethnicity. Please see the FRN for more detail on the parameters of this review.

2020 Census Residence Criteria: Senators weigh-in on incarcerated persons — Thirteen U.S. Senators urged the Census Bureau to reverse part of its proposed 2020 Census Residence Criteria and Residence Situations and “count incarcerated persons at their pre-incarceration address.” In their September 21st letter, the lawmakers said continuing to count incarcerated persons at the prison facility where they are confined on Census Day “would compound the criminal justice system’s inequities with electoral unfairness and undermine the constitutional principle of one person, one vote.” They also compared other situations where people are not staying at their “home address” for varying lengths of time: “For individuals on overseas military deployments, juveniles in residential treatment facilities, hospital patients, children in boarding schools, people on vacation or business trips, and individuals with multiple residences, the Census Bureau does not default to the place where the individual is staying on Census Day.” The so-called ‘residence rules’ govern where people are counted in the decennial census. The bureau published its proposed final residence criteria in the Federal Register over the summer and expects to issue a final policy by year’s end.


Census Bureau to test digital advertising strategies in ACS — The Commerce Department (which houses the Census Bureau) is seeking clearance for a pilot study of targeted, digital advertising to help increase survey response rates, using the January and February 2017 American Community Survey samples as the test bed. The proposed methods experiment appears in a Federal Register notice (dated October 3) inviting public comment within 30 days.

Census Advisory Committee to meet in November — The Census Bureau’s National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic, and Other Populations will hold its semi-annual plenary meeting on November 3-4, 2016, at agency headquarters in Suitland, MD. The meeting is open to the public and will be webcast live. The Federal Register notice announcing the meeting gives more information on how to access meeting materials and view the proceedings.

Free Census Bureau training opportunities for data users — The Census Project encourages stakeholders to take advantage of free Census Bureau webinars, classes, and other training opportunities to facilitate effective use of bureau data products. Visit our website for a link to more information on the Census Bureau’s training program.

Please direct questions on the information in this Census Project Update to Terri Ann Lowenthal at